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EDITORIAL: Nassau assessment reforms need more teeth

Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano's efforts to reform the commercial property tax assessment system are steps in the right direction. They promise to make the system fairer and more accurate. But taken alone, there's no way that the reforms will save the kind of money he's projecting in the near term. And cynically forcing through a vote on the changes - hours before a meeting with the county's financial overseer - appears to have been very much for show.

Mangano's Multi-Year Financial Plan estimates a $25 million in savings for the county this year, of the $100 million in annual refunds. Next year, he claims savings of $91.6 million.

The reforms, approved by the legislature's Republican majority, put the onus on the county's Assessment Review Commission to respond to challenges before the next tax roll is created. Improved accuracy could mean that Nassau will be off the hook for paying refunds for schools and other taxing districts. But without Albany's approval of a new cyclical assessment system, which would limit challenges to once every four years, Mangano's numbers won't add up.

Still, there are gains. Property owners must now document that their claims are valid as part of their challenge. And Mangano is no longer publicly fighting with his hand-picked reform team.

But this reform is still a long way from a solution. And Nassau is still counting on borrowing to balance its budget. We've been down this road before. hN


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